Day 1, Sunday, May 27 – Cascais to Setubal, Portugal

Monday 28 May 2012

I will have to admitted I was a bit intimidated and concerned by the hills that I saw through the window as we flew in the other day.  That and knowing our training had not included anything but flat land, plus a new bike and cobblestones.   There, all the whining is done; let’s get this started.

Our first 16 miles to the Port of Lisbon was along the coast road with no shoulder, in fact not even a white line to ride on, but the drivers are very courteous to bicycles so it was no problem.  We did have a lot going for us though, beautiful sunshine, cool breeze to our back and some beautiful sights along the way and it really was SO good to be back on the bicycle.

As we pulled away we were able to catch a final glimpse of Lisbonand the hills that stood before us.

The hills turned out to be not so bad in the beginning.  The morning was filled with the smell of Eucalyptus trees and every kind of meat being grilled on outdoor fire pits.  Luckily the small villages were few and far between.

After a quick picnic lunch the hills began, but they wound through wine fieldsso we were pleasantly distracted.

Our last climb finished with a drop into the town of Setúbal. We checked in, quickly took a shower and were out of the door again to stroll the streets in the fabulous weather. Actually, we had no particular reason or anything to see to leave so quickly, but it was worth it nonetheless.  Though there were people everywhere, it wasn’t loud, no particular chaos, just everyone enjoying the day.

The town was in the middle of a festival of “choco”, which we thought was chocolate; better yet…..octopus/squid; which they consider to be the same animal?!  The town of Sentubal is also know for their fish, “best port for fresh fish”.  We of course, must test their theory.  On our first lap around the town we stop for some fresh squid, to help them celebrate.  We opted for the grilled instead of fried and were quite (delightfully) surprised…..the squid came with INK (and boiled potatoes) and it was Fabulous! Needless to say, our lips, teeth, smiles were black.  Do you realize how impossible it is NOT to smile when you know you look like your made-up for Halloween?!

Managed to put a few hours of touring in

in between our 3:00 ‘inking’ and dinner, since we were not at all hungry.

We were pulled into a restaurant by a very gregarious waiter, who insisted we try the wonderful fish……..his recommendations were ‘spot on’. Thank goodness we were not hungry!

You wouldn’t think 45 miles would cause us to eat so much, but we were tired and we have a long few months ahead of us, so off to bed.

Day 2, Monday, May 28 – Setubal to Porto Covo, Portugal

Monday 28 May 2012

Once again our day began with fabulous sunshine and a breeze to our back.  We catch a glimpse of an old nunnery on the hill on our ferry ride across the Rio Sado to Tróia, a peninsula of land that resembles the Outer Banks (before development). On the ferry we met a group of bikers from Norway, whom we passed as they took a break.Loblolly pines, Eucalyptus and pastel colored scrub brush stretched for miles in every direction. It was more than ten miles before we saw any civilization and that was just a small village that worked the rice fields that were now covering the sand.  Rice fields melted into wine and citrus crops.

How anything can grow in the sand is amazing!

The aggressive hills returned after lunch and this time we were treated to a close look at Cork trees with their bark removed.We also met Hans and Anna from Holland.We had thought to stop for the day in Sines, but Hans advised heading to the next town, so we continued to Porto Covo.  Five miles before our destination, we hit the coast;what a Fabulous recommendation.  It took us a while to get to our hotel as we stopped for so many pictures (even more at the bottom).

The town of Porto Covo is very neat and clean, but odd; we’ve tried to figure out a better description, but can’t put our finger on it.Seems as if all the color and personality is hidden inside. Of course, this did not keep us from enjoying the town, vistas and food.  As the wind picked up and the sun began to set, we strolled back to our room to rest after our 51 miles.  Apparently, we have a long and arduous day ahead of us.

Day 3, Tuesday, May 29 – Porto Covo to Aljezur, Portugal

Monday 28 May 2012

This ride in southern Europe is so different from our previous European adventure.   Gone are the castles and cathedrals, instead we enjoy the beauty of the countryside and the majesty of the mountains and the sea.

Another cool and beautiful morning; though the sun was warm the sea breeze kept the morning air near 60.As we biked out of our village this morning, so too did we bike away from the sea. When we turned south, we could see the ocean in the distance, either the blue from the sea or the cloud bank that was hovering off the coast.  We were also bordered by mountains to our east, hopefully they would not get too close.With the exception of crazy Hans (did we mention he does the JFK 50 Miler, every year) & Anna that we met yesterday, the only bikers we’ve seen have been road/racing bikers.  They always greet us with enthusiastic waves and the drivers with happy honks.

The countryside, once again, proved to be beautiful

occasionally dipping down to a coveand then climbing the gently rolling hills,

at some points, however, the only way we knew we were climbing is the strain on our legs.

After one such climb that seemed to go on forever, we decided to take a lunch break and rest our legs.  Immediately after lunch we were greeted with a five mile fly down, sounds great at the time, but we knew we would pay….and dearly.  Sure enough the two mile climb to follow was steep with sharp hairpin turns.

At one rest during our climb, we were pushed with a nice breeze whipping up from the sea, so forging on was a little easier.  Thankfully, at noon we had decided to stay in a town only 15-20 miles away, because the afternoon hills looked to be very challenging….INDEED!

Our hotel was lovely, with a roof top view of the hills of the town,of which there were plenty.

Once we checked in, we took a short stroll around the town, found an old churchand an old farmer, still working the land!

Since arriving at our hotel, we have been smelling the delightful smells from the kitchen of the attached restaurant.  So we knew we had to travel no further than down two flights of stairs for dinner.  It was SO worth the trip!  Oddly enough (to us, anyway) salmon has been on the menu every night since arriving in Portugal.  Independently, we both decided to order it…….it was THE most incredible meal we’ve had so far….perfectly cooked and deliciously accompanied, I didn’t even long for ice cream!!

50+ miles today and steep hills in our very near future, time to turn in.

 

 

Day 4, Wednesday, May 30 – Aljezur to Sagres, Portugal

Wednesday 30 May 2012

We were greeted at breakfast by blooming cactus, that had been closed tightly last evening.

It was much warmer today at 75, but then we got a much later start since the breakfast did not begin until 9 am; and we were not ready to give up the fresh baked bread and delicious coffee.  The hills we knew we’d run into today, began right away and were with us our entire ride, but it was a glorious morning.  The topography of rolling hills filled with lush green trees was beautiful.

It was not long into the ride when we knew we had turned toward to the coast; the unmistakable wind from the Atlantic and a 10 degree drop in temperature.  We couldn’t really see the sea, but we knew it was there in the distance. The rest of the ride remained cool from the ocean breeze at our back :-).  As we crested one hill the vista changed dramtically; 

gone was the lush vegetation but the hills remained.The sky has been incredible all day, so one shot dedicated to the clouds in the sky.

Just before we reached Vila do Bispo, we dropped from the hills and had an incredible wind assisted 8K to Sagres; we are SO going to suffer biking into this wind tomorrow, but that’s a long way away from right now.

The terrain on our five mile whip to the end was very wind worn,obvious in town as well.A quick ride around the center circle and we found a nice place to stay and our bikes to rest.Though the view from our room was spectacular, we had purposely made our ride short today as we wanted to see the other sites of the southwestern most point of Europe; the beginning of the famed Algarve!  Since the lighthouse (Rota Ste. Vicente) was four miles away, we jumped on our bikes and slowly fought the headwind out to the point.Incredible viewswell worth the struggle.On the ride back we caught a glimpse of one of the many spectacular beaches in this area.

We made a quick stop at an incredible Portugal artesian pottery shop, but since I’d already purchased my Portugal souvenir from this nice couple

there was no more shopping to be done, not to mention the weight of carrying pottery the rest of the trip.  The only thing left to do was a couple shots the townthen dinner.  Italian tonight, followed by one very delicious piece of chocolate cake.And though we cannot see the sun set directly, we can capture it’s glow on the cliffside.Tomorrow after our five mile backtrack, we head east for our trek through the Algarve.

Day 5, Thursday, May 31 – Sagres to Armacao de Pera, Portugal

Friday 1 June 2012

We awoke this morning to no wind and warm temps. Being right on the sea offered no comfort; it was a warm 78.  But no wind meant our climb out of Sagres would not be as tough; or so we thought.  Even without yesterday’s 30 mph winds in our face we still managed only 5 mph in some spots, plus a picture or two.

Luckily, it was only a 5 mile backtrack.

It was a tough ride though, up and down and up and down again in blazing sun.  With the ride along their state route, there was not much of an opportunity for good pictures.  Luckily, a couple hours into our ride as the haze overtook the sun and the rising temps eased, we went through the city of Lagos and along their port.We biked for about an hour with minimal climbing, which was a reliefbut that is about the time the clouds started building and wind picked up….in our face.

After being beaten up by the wind for a few hours, we stopped five miles short of our 50 mile goal.  Dropping a couple of miles into town, we found a place right on the ocean with a spectacular view from our balcony.

The “tourist season” doesn’t officially start for another couple of weeks, but you’d think there would be at least a few people enjoying the massive boardwalk.Not even that many people on the beaches

I ventured a toe in the water, but that’s it, too Cold!

One more picture of the beach and then we need to eat.

Dora, at the front desk, recommended a restaurant she owns with her husband, Jose.  Usually a risk, but this was an exception; the food at Restaurante M.B.M. was divine and the presentation impressive…..highly recommend it, if you ever find yourself in Armacao de Pêra.

That’s it for today, our legs are tired and tummies full.

Day 6, Friday, June 1 – Armacao de Pera to Tavira, Portugal

Saturday 2 June 2012

Today, on our hike out of town, we were greeted with an enthusiastic honk from a car that had slowed beside us…….it was our host from last night, wishing us a good trip.  It was a warm cheerful smile to the cold, overcast and very windy morning we were riding in to.  From our room we could not tell the direction of the wind, but knew as soon as we were on our course, it was going to be a long day. The city of Armacão de Pêra has a lot of high rises, on the beach and several miles inland, but not much else to see.Once again, we rode along the highway, but with the wind in our face as strong as it was, we saw very little for the struggle of biking the hills into the wind. It is a good thing the two of us enjoy biking as much as we do; tough to understand for many , but it’s good to be in the saddle…..maybe not for 5+ hours, though.  Given our course, however, it seems this trip will be more of a ‘destination’ ride; not as much scenery along the way, but hopefully, the towns we stay in.

We passed many orange and tangerine orchardsas well as stands selling two and an half pound bags for just over $1.00.

Needing a break and Faro just up ahead, we took a turn into town.  Managed to find a nice park bench along the water and out of the wind for lunch.

Faro has a nice waterfront with a pretty park and center square.

Much like yesterday, for an hour after lunch the ride was ‘relatively’ flat, still a head wind, but not as much climbing; always appreciated.  But the break did not last long!  Our course did turn slightly north, so the headwind we’d been facing all day, was slightly off our shoulder; we’ll take it.

Thankfully, the town we had planned to stay in was at the 50 mile mark, so we could stop for the day.  Travia is a quaint port town, where we were fortunate to find a room by the water.  A stroll around the town

and a shot of one of the doors the town is famous for.

And lastly, another great choice for dinner, which began with a scrumptious octopus salad.That’s all for today, good night!

Day 7, Saturday, June 2 – Tavira, Portugal to Huelva, Spain

Monday 4 June 2012

We left this morning to a cool (70 degrees) no wind (yippee) overcast morning.

It seemed as if overnight we transitioned into rural roads, less traffic, taller trees and everything just seemed greener.Stopping to take pictures was easier, so I was finally able to capture these lush bushes that have lined the roads for days.

It took us only a couple of hours to reach the end of our ride in and a ferry to The half hour wait for the ferry and the 20 minute ride gave us an opportunity to catch a couple of photos of Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal and a first look at Spain We will miss the friendly people and delicious wines of Portugal; let’s see what Espana has to offer.

The port of Ayamonte was colorful and loaded with tourists; but unfortunately, we spent a good hour + trying to communicate (she spoke NO English) with the internet provider, so we could have some kind of computer map in Spain, so not much touring of the town.  Once on the road, we noticed the homes to be much larger, but mostly miles and miles of farms, our favorite was the fragrance of the strawberry fields After what seemed like hours of riding in the middle of nowhere we run into this young man selling potatoes and cherries (a curious combination)Though he spoke no English, these two were able to communicate enough to relay a shortcut to our destination….let’s ‘hope’ Jerry understood as it was already past 3 pm and we had quite a ways left to any kind of town.  It was a wonderful new course on a newly paved road through a forrest of pines. Even though the shortcut probably shaved an hour off our ride, we did not get to our hotel until 5 pm and we were tired after five hours of biking.  But we had to see the city.  Seemed as if everyone was out for a Saturday afternoon stroll or coffee.
But a parade we were not expecting, Robyn this one’s for you. 

parade in Huelva, Spain

After an hour of touring, we needed to have dinner before we feel asleep…this is when we were told that the restaurants did not open until 8:00 PM…..are you kidding??  We stopped in our hotel and she said the restaurant around the corner would be open in 10 minutes, that we could wait for.  And though it was the only choice, we could not have chosen better.  First an incredible bottle of wine and home baked bread, followed by a Huge side salad

and then dinner,which I can only describe as delicious.  A complimentary toast from the restaurant was a perfect ending to our day.